Point Spread

If you want people to buy your product, make it simpler. That’s what Charles McNeil did back in the 1940s when he decided to open his own sportsbook business in Chicago. Instead of using fixed odds for betting on the NFL, McNeil offered what he called “wholesale odds,” which later became the point spread we all know and love today.

What’s a Point Spread?

The point spread is much simpler than fixed odds – at least for the customer. You don’t need to do any math to figure out how much you’ll get paid if Team A or Team B wins; in either case, you’re typically betting $11 to win $10.

  • Chicago Bears +2
  • Detroit Lions -2

In this NFC North rivalry game, you have the option of betting on the Lions -2 or the Bears +2. If you bet on the Lions and they win by more than two points, you get paid. If you bet on the Bears and they don’t lose by two or more points, you get paid. A final score where Detroit wins by exactly two points would result in a push – you get your initial wager back without winning or losing any money.

The sportsbook can move the point spread back and forth to encourage people to bet on a particular side. Perhaps Detroit will be moved to -2.5 or even -3 to get more action coming in on Chicago. It’s an important move anytime the NFL odds are dancing around the “magic number” 3, since more NFL games end with a winning margin of three points than with any other number. The pros know how to react in these situations. So can you, with a little time and some practice.